One of the boys who escaped a swollen stream in the Waitakere Ranges in the weekend storm arrived at the Waitakere Golf Club "shaking and shivering" as he raised the alarm.

"It was obvious he had been in the water," club manager Josh Ritchie told the Herald today. "He was pretty shaken-up and worried."

West Auckland teenagers Sosi Turagaiviu and Mitch Woolley, both 17, died after being swept away in a flash flood in the Cascade Falls area on Saturday.

They were part of a group with three other Massey High School students - Mitch had just started an engineering apprenticeship.


Mitch, his twin brother Denver and Sosi were swept away but Denver managed to grab hold of a tree until he was winched to safety by the Westpac rescue helicopter.

The other two had made it to the river bank and one ran up to the road to get help.

Ritchie told the Herald the freezing teen flagged down two tourists driving by, who stopped at the Waitakere Golf Club to raise the alarm.

When the youth arrived he was soaked, shivering and distraught.

Mitch Woolley, 17 years old, swept away while trying to cross a swollen river in West Auckland's Waitakere Ranges. Photo / Instagram
Mitch Woolley, 17 years old, swept away while trying to cross a swollen river in West Auckland's Waitakere Ranges. Photo / Instagram

The tourists left the boy in the car with the "heater blasting" while they came inside to tell Ritchie what had occurred.

"I called 111 as soon as they told me about him. I grabbed some spare clothes and went out to talk to him, that is when I heard there were three other boys who had not got out of the stream.

"I went straight back inside and called 111 to say there were still three of them in the stream. Fire and emergency and the ambulance arrived pretty soon after that."

The youth was taken to Waitakere Hospital with mild hypothermia.


It was one of two tragedies on the water over the weekend.

In southwest Auckland yesterday afternoon, off a small island at Awhitu peninsula, a man died as he and his family were caught by a rising tide as they tried to wade back to shore.

Campers managed to rescue a boy and a girl aged 12 and 7.

The man's name is yet to be released.

Water Safety New Zealand chief executive Jonty Mills said the weekend's incidents highlighted the changeable and unpredictable nature of New Zealand's waterways, particularly after heavy rainfall and storms.

"First and foremost there are families grieving from the tragic incidents over the weekend.

"Every preventable fatal drowning leaves a family and a community devastated."

Image / Water Safety New Zealand
Image / Water Safety New Zealand

There have been 17 preventable drowning deaths within New Zealand in the year to date.

There had been 16 at the same time last year.

Over the past five years there have been 398 preventable drowning deaths within New Zealand - an average of nearly 80 a year.

"The water is our playground but it is incredibly unforgiving," Mills said.

"Situations can develop quickly and with fatal consequences.

"This shows how important it is to consider safety before undertaking any water-based activity.

"To check the weather forecast and remember the water safety code: be prepared, watch out for yourself and others, be aware of the dangers and know your limits."